Telecoms industry disputes claims of slow Maltese broadband speed

Malta logged an average speed of 10.17Mbps, coming in 48th in a worldwide test of broadband speeds

 

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Matthew Vella
9 August 2017, 1:42pm
Malta has ranked 48th in a worldwide test of broadband speeds.

The global test was compiled by Cable.co.uk using data collected by research group M-Lab, a partnership between New America’s Open Technology Institute, Google Open Source Research and Princeton University’s PlanetLab.

More than 63 million speed tests were carried out across the world in the 12 months up to May 2017 as part of the study.

Malta logged an average speed of 10.17Mbps.

Top-ranking Singapore, with an average speed of 55.13Mbps, is fast enough to download a 7.5GB film in 18 minutes and 34 seconds.

Malta has ranked 48th in a worldwide test of broadband speeds
Malta has ranked 48th in a worldwide test of broadband speeds
In Malta, that same film would take over one hour and 40 minutes to download.

There were 25 EU member states ahead of Malta in the ranking, with only Cyprus and Greece registering slower speeds.

The Malta Communications Authority (MCA) however pointed out that the tool employed by surveyor M-Lab, the Network Diagnostic Tool (NDT), was severely limited in its efficacy for benchmarking performance across countries.

In fact, it added that such comparisons require strict methodology requirements that would include the number of samples by fixed and mobile technologies, as well as the location of the servers against which the benchmarks are performed. 

“The source did not publish such relevant methodology information in conjunction with this country ranking, thus seriously bringing into question the significance and reliability of this exercise. Through its quality of service framework and monitoring programme set up in 2013, the MCA ensures that through consistent and comparable methodologies, Internet service providers in Malta meet the Internet access speeds attached to their offers,” a spokesperson said.

On its part, Vodafone Malta said it was still examining the report. “The NDT is much better suited towards determining what problems limit network speeds, as opposed to capturing network speeds across different operators and countries and drawing out an average. The sample size quoted in the report is also too small to reflect true statistical significance.”

The Vodafone spokesperson also said that the report did not differentiate between fixed and mobile internet. Vodafone Malta’s overwhelming majority of subscribers make use of mobile internet services as opposed to fixed internet, which skews and dilutes the resulting figures.

“Vodafone Malta conducts regular drive tests and can report that its average internet speeds are significantly and consistently higher than what is being quoted as the overall local average internet speeds,” a company spokesperson said.

Melita, whose take-over bid for Vodafone Malta is currently undergoing investigation by the competition authority, pointed out that the M-Lab survey find Melita’s download speed reached an average of 18.3 Mbps – far above the Maltese average of 10.17Mbps.

“With this result, Melita would rank 25th in the world and mid-table in the EU,” a company spokesperson said.

Again, the M-Lab testing depends on the performance of the servers abroad. “Whilst Melita guarantees that its customers get the nominal speed they buy in Malta, (which speed can be easily and independently tested on local speed test servers), when tests are carried out on servers located abroad the results can be lower.”

Melita also pointed out that Akamai’s study on all of Malta’s internet providers, produced a different average speed, with a 37% year-on-year increase in peak speed at 67Mbps. “This is a clear sign that Melita’s investments and efforts to connect all new customers, nationwide, to 100Mbps is having an effect on raising the bar, and to push Malta up the rank.”

GO plc on the other hand said that its speeds were more than twice as fast as those being quoted in the report. “GO’s current product offering in fact starts at levels far higher than then numbers being quoted,” a spokesperson said, raising questions of the methodology of the study.

GO’s fibre-to-home network covers 50,000 households and currently reaches speeds of up to 500Mbps, the company said. “On mobile, research by Net Check, a leading, independent German firm specialising in performance testing of mobile networks, conclusively shows GO has the best mobile network in Malta,” the company said, citing 4G download speeds in urban areas of 85.4 Mbps compared to a runner-up speed of 56.8 Mbps, and 79 MBps outside urban areas (compared to 55Mbps).

In compiling its worldwide league table, Cable.co.uk analysed data collected by research group M-Lab, a partnership between New America’s Open Technology Institute, Google Open Source Research and Princeton University’s PlanetLab.

More than 63 million speed tests had been carried out across the world in the 12 months up to 10 May, 2017.

Collin Anderson, an independent researcher at M-Lab, said: “The research demonstrates the value of network measurements and open data across countries to understand where countries rank against each other and to provide evidence that facilitates public learning about broadband development.”

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Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.